UPDATE: Joe Kinder, a professional climber, has been removed from the Black Diamond team for violating their zero tolerance policy towards bullying.UPDATE:
Since this article was first published, The Outdoor Journal has been in contact with the relevant parties. This is a developing story, and as such, the article was updated at 05:45 UTC on 16th May 2017.
After reflecting, Joe Kinder has just issued another apology on his Instagram.
After this story was published, La Sportiva also ended its relationship with Joe Kinder, removing him from their team of ambassadors.
Joe Kinder told The Outdoor Journal that the meme in question did not explicitly state Sasha or Edu’s name in the caption. Our original coverage stated that “he body shamed her by making a crass joke and included Sasha and her climbing partner Edu in the caption”.
Sasha’s manager told The Outdoor Journal that she spoke directly with the athlete managers at Black Diamond and asked for Joe to not be dropped from the team—however, this was their choice and several factors went into this decision.
A full statement from Sasha can be found at the bottom of the article.
Sasha DiGiulian, a professional climber and writer, called out fellow climber Joe Kinder on his social media bullying, mostly targeted towards her. This had been ongoing for several years and previously, Sasha had tried to address the issue offline, but Joe did not respond. Joe had a private meme account on IG, where he would post inside jokes making fun of friends. In one post, he posted an image of Sarah Sapora—a well-known public figure who focuses on wellness and self-love. Her main goal is “to show other women that they are visible, valuable, and have the ability to be the ‘hero’ in their own lives”. The now deleted meme was made at her expense. Sasha has been very vocal about body image issues and eating disorders, speaking from personal experiences she has had to overcome. This has sparked a debate on the effects of cyberbullying, eating disorders, gender inequality, and the role and responsibility of professional and influential athletes. Joe has issued an apology that has been accepted by Sasha.
On May 3, Sasha called attention to this issue on her Instagram:
As a community we need to uphold ourselves to higher standards than permitting defamatory, assaulting behavior. I use my social media platforms to share a window into my life- both professionally and personally, yet I also believe that this channel is a platform to have a voice and stand for what I believe in. This includes spreading more love and taking a stance against bullying. I am hurt and broken hearted to say that I am a victim of a bully and it has crossed the line. I write from the hospital, where I sit praying for the health of my family. I have received many messages about the ridicule that someone has made about me and my career. I have tried reaching out maturely, with no response. I find it incredibly sad that he has chosen this road. Perhaps because I am an independent female who has made a career out of my chosen path that irritates him? The second photo in this slide is one example of a reference he has made to me and Edu going to the Verdon, which I had to cancel due to my Grandma’s health. At the root of a lot of evil is insecurity. There is a line at which enough is enough, and I do not find it okay that a man can act like such a child, nor target women in such a vulgar way as he has done. I have chosen to write about this because while joking banter can be light and entertaining, this is not “light” content. This is malicious and ongoing. Behavior like this has dire consequences on the victim, including eating disorders, the perpetuation of gender inequality, and a misrepresentation of the pillars that I am proud that our community stands for. – Update I’ve been in touch with Joe and he’s taking steps to fix his problems. He deleted the meme account and has apologized in both my and his social accounts. Personally I’m accepting his apology and would encourage all of you to do the same. This includes his sponsors who I know are aware of the situation and I’m sure he’s feeling the heat from that angle. Ultimately I want our community to be better, to respect people of all strengths, shapes and sizes for who they are. As athletes, lets use our platforms for good and work hard to push the limits of what us humans are capable of.
To this post, Black Diamond responded: @sashadigiulian and the greater climbing tribe, thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. At BD, we have and always will support ALL women in the climbing community. From our amazing female athletes, to the women’s specific gear we design, our stance has and will always be to support and value women.
Pro climber and The North Face athlete Emily Harrington responded: This is a really valuable conversation to have right now. And respect to you sasha for having the courage to bring it up under some pretty personal and hurtful circumstances. Not many of us would have the courage or know where to begin. Respect. I’m sorry it came to such a painful place though and I sincerely hope good can come from this. That everyone can be better and kinder humans as a result. Big love to you and especially to your fam right now .
Mountaineer and TNF athlete Conrad Anker responded: It takes strength to speak out. Thanks Sasha for being a beacon of positivity. May our community learn and make steps towards integrity, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and humility. Be good, be kind, be happy.
On May 4, Black Diamond Equipment dropped Joe Kinder from their team:
Black Diamond has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying of any kind. In the past 24 hours, we have unfortunately become aware that this line has been crossed by one of our athletes.⠀ ⠀ Though we have enjoyed working with Joe Kinder on a professional level, his recent personal decisions and actions on social media have strayed from our core values.⠀ ⠀ It is with difficulty that we announce that Joe Kinder is no longer a member of our Black Diamond team.⠀ ⠀ We are committed to continuing to support the incredible women and men making a positive impact in our community.
On May 3, Joe posted an apology:
Social media has been an awesome way for most of us to reach one another on so many levels. My career has changed immensely with the ease of sharing stories to motivate or inform audience. It can be used in great ways or harmful. I’ve always had a bit of a harsh sense of humor as I grew up a skater-kid punk. I’d rile my friends with pranks or nicknames, as it was done out of love. Fast forward to my adult years and I still enjoy joking and never taking ourselves too seriously but there’s a point when it’s too much. Bullying or harmful content is nothing I’d like to be connected to and I’m not proud to have offended people. For a few months I had a private account that would include a small group of people on inside jokes and memes poking fun at people. (It’s deleted now so no need to search it out.) I went overboard and would like to publicly apologize, Sasha, I’m sorry. I respect women and support our current era for our women as we’re in a historical moment of time. It was not pro, kind, human, or yielding of anything positive. Social media is great and I want to share content to inspire and not cause harm. The brands I work with support women on a major level and I’m dang proud to affiliate with that. My actions are by me and I own it. I apologize to anyone that was hurt by my tasteless acts, I’m learning from this. -joe (Above are photos of people I respect and who teach me to be a better person)
To this, Emily Harrington responded: I’ve known you since I was 14 dude. You’re like an older brother to me and I know your heart is big and in the right place. Insensitive jokes, hurtful actions, and mistakes happen, sometimes in public and sometimes not. We’ve all been on both sides of it. Sasha’s decision to call you out was her way of calling attention to an important issue and dealing with the pain it caused her. Respect for that. And yea it sucks that it had to come to this but it did and here we are. Your response was well thought out and I know it was genuine (because I know you). Good conversations should and will come of this. Let’s all be kinder, better, and give a little more love now.
Sasha responded: I really appreciate your apology Joe. My intention was not to publicly denounce you for an image; it was the pattern Our behavior towards others has consequences on our self-esteem and relationship with ourselves and the community. Now we are communicating publicly and privately and I Wish before we could have been speaking privately too; I did reach out. This can all be flipped around in a positive light as I see working together on a societal issue and deconstructing the negative is the way forward.
Sasha’s last update came from her manager, Luke Tipple:
Good morning everyone, Sasha is with family in the hospital right now saying goodbye to her Grandmother. She’ll be back on social media in the next couple of days but in the meantime she’s asked me as her manager to issue a statement on her behalf. First of all she wants to thank everyone for their support of her decision to speak out about bullying. The situation is unfortunate and it’s important that you all understand that it wasn’t just one post or one snarky meme, this was an ongoing problem over several years that affected Sasha as well as several other female athletes. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to settle this privately but the attacks kept coming. Sasha made a difficult and brave decision to speak out publicly knowing full well that she’d be subject to backlash and victim shaming. This brought accountability and voice to an issue that was not otherwise stopping. Sasha is in touch with Joe and has accepted his apology. She also spoke to Black Diamond and encouraged them not to drop Joe as an athlete. Their decision to do so was not desired, but is in line with the ethics and morality clauses in all professional athlete contracts so their actions have to be respected. On a personal level guys, this world is changing for the better thanks to people like Sasha who are brave enough to take a stand against bullying. It sucks that it’s resulted in a respected athlete learning some hard lessons, but hopefully this is something the entire community can benefit from eventually. We’re in touch with Joe and will assist where possible to mitigate further damage. On a final but equally important note, Sasha has been in touch with the woman that was used to poke fun of. Her name is Sarah and you can go to her Instagram at Her and Sasha agree that body shaming is not okay and we all need to accept who we are and to speak up for ourselves and others. @sarahsapora
Her manager, Luke Tipple, sent The Outdoor Journal a statement from Sasha:
I agree that social media should not be the standard by which we solve our problems. And here, yes, after attempting private reconciliation, I stood up for myself on my platform. I respect that each person will have an opinion and vocalize it; I hope that you can respect that I have an opinion of my own as well; that is to be held accountable to your actions and to recognize the privilege that we have as professional athletes.
We have an opportunity to hold ourselves to a higher standard. And I am sorry that this comes with such repercussions.
As representatives of our community, we should not spend our extra time being adults that pick fun of other people for no reason but to laugh at them without them knowing.
I don’t stand for just passing my time climbing rock and giving nothing back to society.
And I’m sorry to some that we may forever disagree on these points.
Maybe it could have gone a different way. And it’s important to pull those things into question and think about it. That’s how we grow. That’s how we learn and that’s how we become better in the future. There are always multiple approaches to any one problem. But I chose the one I chose for a good reason. And that is, after attempts to privately reconcile the problem, I shared what was already online. If we refuse to call a bully by their name we continue to allow them the undeserved power they continue to abuse.
My actions were thought out and considered. I asked advice and picked my words carefully. And now what is done is done. This isn’t life ending. We don’t even know that’s it’s career ending. It just forces change and accountability. Joe has a lot of growing up to do; as do we all, and if he had learned these things earlier on than this would have never happened to begin with. His actions are his to own, not mine to excuse.
On May 7, La Sportiva dropped Joe Kinder from their team:
On May 14, Joe Kinder issued another apology.
I made a mistake. A mistake that has cost me my livelihood as a professional climber, and hurt the feelings of someone who I’ve known for more than 10 years. I blame no one but myself and I own my mistake. Climbing has been my family, my home, and my inspiration for more than 25 years. I’m going to do everything I can to earn back the respect and the trust of the tribe. I’ll need some time to work through all of this, but I’ll come through it a better person—because one of the lessons climbing has taught me over the years is to never give up. I have apologized for my mistake and learned a very hard lesson—about myself and about others. I’ve chosen not to respond to the mistruths or rebut the misrepresentations about my mistake that have been broadcast as fact, chosen not to share my version of what happened, because in the end there is no excuse, no defensible explanation for my mistake. There will always be a place in this world for humor, but not for humor that causes hurt. Hopefully we can all grow from this, can all learn to be better to each other, can all be more understanding. I know I will. To those of you that I hurt or disappointed, I am truly sorry. To those of you that have expressed compassion and understanding, thank you for the support. And now? Now, I’m moving forward, starting a new chapter in my life, humbled but not defeated.